EU in crisis: Purge of EU officials finds fresh target
Friday 19 March 1999
The five person inquiry team whose damning report helped topple the commissioners on Monday night, is now preparing for the second phase of the probe. Yesterday some members of the committee accused the Commission of "hindering" its work.
The next phase will target the Commission's 24 directorates-general whose 16,000 staff carry out the day-to-day management of tasks and the execution of policies, including the awarding of financial contracts.
There were suggestions in the German press yesterday of a rearguard attempt by the Commission hierarchy to gag the inquiry by refusing to cooperate with the next round. But with heads of government like Tony Blair demanding "root and branch" reform, any refusal to hand over documents would trigger all-out war with the European Parliament .
The inquiry team is reported to have already received hundreds of boxes of additional information which will form part of the second phase.
The prospect of a purge of senior ranking permanent officials is being relished by handpicked aides and political advisers in the Commissioners' "cabinets" or private offices, who themselves were indirectly the target of much of the criticism in the first-phase report. "There is no point in clearing away the commissioners who accept political responsibility if you leave in place the faceless civil servants who were actually lining their pockets and mismanaging things," said one cabinet member yesterday.
Many middle and junior ranking civil servants are also anxious to see a clear-out. "The wise persons' report is only the tip of the iceberg" said one.
Others said they were appalled by the report and expressed solidarity with Paul Van Buitenen, the sacked Commission whistleblower.
Mr Van Buitenen was given a standing ovation when he showed up at a general assembly of EU staff unions on Wednesday.
Among the targets of the new broom would, according to some sources, be powerful behind-the-scenes figures. "Why should these top civil servants get off scot free?" said one insider.
The presidents of political groups in the European Parliament meet on Monday night in Brussels to decide the remit for the second stage of the inquiry, and parliament officials say there will be agreement that it should proceed. "There is definitely a feeling that we need to go down to the next rung of the ladder".
The inquiry team yesterday hit back at commissioners who suggested that parts of the explosive report were deliberately hyped up. Edith Cresson, the disgraced French commissioner, on Wednesday suggested that the conclusions of the report did not tally with the body of the text and had been sharpened up for political effect on Sunday night after she had seen them.
Pierre Lelong, president of the French court of auditors, and one of the inquiry team, flatly denied Ms Cresson's accusation. "The conclusions were not hardened up. The few changes we made were done with the most scrupulous attention to the truth and without pressure from anyone anywhere," he said.
Walter Van Gerven, a judge who formerly sat on the bench of the European Court of Justice, was another of the five wise persons.
He said: "The European Parliament gave us our mandate and I think they are quite happy with the work we did". He added that the most serious problem shown up by the inquiry was that the Commission had taken on too much work.
"The Commission is not made to directly manage hundreds of contracts with tourism promotion associations, for example.
"Likewise to launch a policy of aid to abandoned children in Romania and then to entrust the job to a private company and let it choose the beneficiaries of public money, that is madness."
Andre Middelhoek, a former member of the EU court of auditors, slated the culture of commissioners failing to look beyond their own noses. "Commissioners should look beyond the hedges of their garden and tear out the weeds from the gardens of their neighbours."
The inquiry team was appointed in January after the Commission agreed to co-operate with a probe in a bid to stave off a vote of censure in parliament.
Donald Macintyre, Review, page 3
filmFilm producers sue Warner Bros for $75m over Hobbit films
voicesJust when you thought you could find a man, get married, and have a baby by the age of 35... it turns out you’re too late, says Grace Dent
Swedish stars ask fans for £195 pledges on crowd-funding website
musicAs Mariah Carey and Noddy Holder rake in the royalties from their classics, why there hasn't been a decent festive hit for 20 years?
theatreAuthor Daniel Rosenthal recalls the mishaps that almost brought the curtain down on the likes of John Gielgud and Diana Rigg
lifeAs the Royal Mail plans to phase out deliveries on two wheels, it's no wonder posties are in a spin
musicThe 21-year-old beat Ella Eyre and Chlöe Howl to win the honour
lifeFull of the joys and want to help your fellow man? December isn't the time to do it
Nelson Mandela memorial: ‘Bogus’ interpreter made mockery of Barack Obama’s tribute in Soweto
David Cameron explains selfie with Obama and Helle Thorning-Schmidt at Mandela Memorial
French café starts charging extra to rude customers
Krokodil in Mexico? Teenager hospitalised after 'injecting drug into her genitals'
Australia incest case: Severely deformed children found in remote farming community after generations of inbreeding
- 1 Nelson Mandela memorial: ‘Bogus’ interpreter made mockery of Barack Obama’s tribute in Soweto
- 2 French café starts charging extra to rude customers
- 3 Sun will 'flip upside down' within weeks, says Nasa
- 4 Is Facebook making us forget? Study shows that taking pictures ruin memories
- 5 Australia incest case: Severely deformed children found in remote farming community after generations of inbreeding
- < Previous
- Next >
£30000 - £40000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Biomass I...
£45000 - £55000 Per Annum Extensive Benefits Package: Clearwater People Soluti...
£30000 - £42500 per annum: Pro-Recruitment Group: Working in conjunction with ...
£44999 - £60001 per annum + Benefits: Pro-Recruitment Group: A Top Tier firm i...